Many people suffering from addiction falsely believe that combining alcohol with cocaine can cancel out the adverse side effects of the other substance and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Not only is that not true, but combining alcohol with cocaine makes it 25 times more lethal compared with taking cocaine alone.
Below we explore the numerous dangerous side effects of mixing alcohol and cocaine and the dangers associated with poly-substance abuse.
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What Side Effects Do Cocaine and Alcohol Have, and Why Do People Combine The Two?
Not all forms of alcoholism lead to the same outcomes. Some people chronically drink alcohol and have been diagnosed with AUD; others may do binge or heavy drinking or may be high-functioning alcoholics, able to function for the most part, even if they suffer from alcoholism.
No matter the personal situation, alcohol is a depressant, so you can expect some of the following effects to various degrees:
- Sweating and tremors
- Nausea, stomachaches and vomiting
- Impaired motor skills, balance, and coordination
- Delayed reaction time and reflexes
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog, forgetfulness, and memory loss
- Disorientation and anxiety
- Irrationality and agitation
Cocaine is a powerful drug with pain-suppressing and stimulating properties. It’s highly addictive, creating psychological and physical dependence. Whether in powder form or as “crack” cocaine, taking a dose can lead to the following physical and psychological effects:
- Feelings of joy, exhilaration, and euphoria
- A brief spike in energy levels
- Increased cognitive sharpness and mental alertness
- Higher sensitivity to sounds, textures, and lights
- Restlessness, anxiety and insomnia
- Paranoia and panic attacks
- Emotional fluctuations and mood swings
- Nausea, sweating and a rise in body temperature
- Dilated pupils
- Lower appetite
Many start with lighter or legal substances, like alcohol, and then gradually experiment and combine them with others, like cocaine. Statistics from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction confirm that theory when more than half of cocaine users also abuse alcohol. In many cases, mixing alcohol and cocaine may not be intentional but accidental due to external circumstances. Many people consume them recreationally at parties, nightclubs, and meetings with friends, where the desire to have fun, blow off some steam and bend to peer pressure make them mix cocaine and alcohol.
For people who’ve been dealing with addiction for a long time, combining alcohol and cocaine is considered a combination that helps reach a ‘high’ that matches the initial intoxicating levels before they raised their tolerance. Alcohol can enhance the euphoric effects by boosting the release of feel-good chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, which makes the “high” more intense.
Finally, some individuals are led to falsely believe that alcohol and cocaine mitigate each other’s side effects. Since cocaine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, some claim that alcohol can smoothen the rush of energy and reduce anxiety, twitching, and restlessness experienced when using cocaine. Unfortunately, both severely influence brain chemistry and are much more likely to exacerbate each other’s side effects rather than counter them. Both push organs to the limit, creating an unwelcome environment within the body.
What Are the Dangers of Combining Alcohol with Cocaine?
Chronic use and abuse of alcohol and cocaine on their own can lead to various health problems. Combining them only serves to multiply the physical and psychological side effects you may experience while also creating dangerous toxins that stay in your system much longer and may lead to significant damage to your organs.
One of the most noticeable and immediate side effects of combining cocaine with alcohol is how it affects your mental health. The surge in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and various endorphins can lead to impulsive and poorly thought-out behaviour. It can also worsen existing mental health issues, worsening your anxiety and depression and possibly leading to mood swings, panic attacks, and paranoia. The combined use of both substances can also negatively affect your overall condition, leading to the following symptoms:
- Sweating, tremors, and nausea
- Increased blood pressure
- Higher heart rate and heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath and other breathing problems
- Disorientation, issues with coordination and diminished motor skills
- Brain fog, reduced ability to make decisions, and confusion
Combining doesn’t just exacerbate existing symptoms but creates a toxic new substance called cocaethylene while the drugs are metabolised in the liver. It has a uniquely powerful stimulating effect but is much more toxic and stays in the liver much longer. Frequent mixing of cocaine and alcohol leads to the accumulation of cocaethylene, which can put immense stress on your liver, cardiovascular system, and other organs because of the increased body temperature and high amount of toxins in your body.
As a result, cocaethylene can lead to the following conditions:
- Kidney and liver failure
- Tear and death of blood vessels in the brain, increasing chances of a stroke or an aneurysm
- Heart attacks, heart pain, and other cardiovascular issues
- Cardiac arrhythmia
Getting Help For Alcohol and Cocaine Abuse
Frequent mixing of alcohol and cocaine can lead to severe and irreversible damage to your physical and mental health. In the immediate present, combining both substances exacerbates withdrawal symptoms and increases the cravings you are likely to have. Treating both addictions requires a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to effectively manage each addiction’s unique withdrawal symptoms and properties through a supervised detoxification programme.
Effectively treatment also requires a holistic set of therapeutic tools that can help you understand the underlying causes or mental health issues which fuel both addictions. Picking a rehabilitation programme also includes the choice between inpatient or outpatient treatment. Although each person can decide for themselves, cooccurring addictions are usually severe and more effectively treated under 24/7 supervision.
The Providence Projects offer private residential treatment, which allows you to dedicate yourself fully to recovery, separates you from stressful environments associated with addiction, and provides the opportunity to learn and re-learn numerous accountability mechanisms while building healthy habits.